King Kong (2005): Deluxe Extended Edition

When Peter Jackson first announced that he was remaking King Kong, my initial reaction was to weep for my soon-to-be-tainted childhood. But then, I saw the movie. Jackson has managed to add his own inventive spin to a classic film—and certainly improve upon the special effects—without ever robbing it of its emotional center. With a film as huge in scope and size, it’s only fitting that a massive, deluxe edition DVD should accompany it. What is there to say about King Kong that hasn’t been said before? The 1933 edition has become a staple of movie history, and Jackson has rekindled the love for Kong with his 2005 monster epic. They both firmly stand on their own, and they’re both worth seeing for different reasons: the original is all story and little splash, and the remake is all splash and little...well, there's a story, but with a few too many strangers squished into it.

The main reason I love the remake is for the incredible special effects, action sequences, and heartfelt scenes between Ann (Watts) and Kong. I’ll admit that I get misty-eyed watching them gaze at the sunset together and then glide across the frozen lake in Central Park. Then, just like that, I’ll be mesmerized by the Bronto Stampede on Skull Island and the scenes of Kong demolishing Manhattan. (I still crack up when he picks up blonde women and then flings them, after realizing that they’re not his lady-love.)

Jackson is wonderful at sticking little moments of humor within larger, tragic moments. He is the master of blending emotions. He’s not as great, however, at pacing: the film runs for a longgg time without ever truly developing its characters (does anyone care if Jack and Ann share a romance? Jimmy, who?), and the scenes on the boat seem to drift on for several lifetimes.

Thankfully, the flawless second and third sections of the movie more than compensate for the time-lags and development issues. When Kong appears, all is good in the world, and any flaws are forgiven. And now, for the real reason you’re reading this article, the special features… With 3 loaded discs of bonus material, this DVD set is a must-have for fans of the big hairy ape that takes Manhattan. There is literally something for everyone here, with plenty of different options depending on your individual interests. It has, no joke, 6 hours of brand new special features.

The entire movie in all its glory (plus 13 minutes of new footage) can be found on Discs 1 and 2, including an audio commentary by Peter Jackson and writer/co-producer Philippa Boyens. That’s a whole lot of talking, and they provide more than enough tidbits to keep you interested. The great thing about this DVD set is that you can tell how much everyone really believed in the production, and how much fun they had along the way. There’s just no faking that kind of passion.

The King Kong Archives are featured on all 3 Discs, though oddly, the series is introduced by Jackson on Disc 3 (which I discovered after already watching the other 2—oops.) Disc 1 contains 16 deleted scenes, each with an intro by Jackson about what the scenes entail and why they didn’t make the cut. Most of them are taken from the time on the boat, and let’s face it, that part of the movie is long enough as it is. However, they do provide more back-stories on Preston (Hanks), Jimmy (Bell), and Hayes (Parke) who were probably pissed to see most of their scenes land on the cutting room floor.

My favorite deleted scenes are the last 2, which display Kong chasing Jack’s cab in NYC and fighting against the army before darting up the building; you just can’t have too much Kong. Also, there is a very peculiar scene where Lumpy (Serkis) chats with a head made of cabbage, and goes in for a kiss at the end. Yes, it really is that weird.

In addition, Disc 1 contains a special called “The Eighth Blunder of the World,” which shows a lot of gags and outtakes during production. As expected, there is plenty of Jack Black acting like a maniacal freak, not to mention a good amount of cursing from the cast after they repeatedly botch their lines. “A Night at the Vaudeville” shows a collection of old, intriguing Vaudeville acts, and the choreographer gushing about her love of performance art.

“The Missing Production Diary” contains #59, which was not included in Jackson’s Production Diaries series. It’s a funny set of clips which show the cast talking, mockingly, about their obsessions with watching playbacks. Lastly, for the opening Disc (whew), there is my personal favorite, “The King Kong Homage.” This creative bit shows side-by-side footage of the original film and the remake, details little nuances and references, and shows which props in the remake actually came from the original.

Disc 2 has a hilarious short film called “The Present,” which the cast actually made as a birthday gift for Jackson. It shows a neatly-wrapped pink present that each cast member is holding before another one comes and kills them for it. (It has everything from Watts being suffocated on the couch to Bell kicking Parke in the face during a series of wacky dance moves.) They actually gave Jackson the pink present after the movie, but the secretive director won’t admit what was in it. Darn.

There is another cool extra called “Pre-Visualization Animatics” that shows different action-scenes in the film, before they were digitally completed (including Arrival at Skull Island, Bronto stampede, T-Rex fight, and Empire State Building battle—which shows what it looked like before and after the finishing touches). There are also a few different trailers, a special on the Weta Collectibles and what went into choosing them, and an option to read the scripts by putting the Disc into your computer hard drive.

Disc 3 has the special “Recreating the Eighth Wonder: The Making of King Kong” with an impressive series of behind-the-scenes footage. It includes the “Origin of King Kong” where Jackson talks about how the film inspired him to get into special effects (and eventually, directing); Two pre-production diaries, “Return of Kong” and “Countdown to Filming”; The Venture Journey; and Return of Skull Island.

There are a ton of goodies on this Disc that will appeal to people (like me) who love to see exactly what goes into a movie visually, and how the creative process unfolds. “New York, New Zealand” is fascinating to me, because it shows how they literally recreated NYC circa 1933…in a lot in New Zealand. They reconstructed the first 20 feet and the first level of the city, and used computer graphics to implement the rest.

Equally as interesting are the “Bringing Kong to Life” features, which show how Serkis is almost entirely responsible for turning Kong into a flesh-and-blood creature. He literally ran around in a black costume, moving like Kong, breathing like Kong, even roaring like Kong (which, understandably, did severe damage to his vocal cords.) They modeled the big Ape after Serkis’ movements, and he gave the cast something to react to on-set. Lastly, the “Conceptual Design Video Galleries” provide a breath-taking slide show of both original and color sketches.

Simply put, The King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition DVD is one of the best DVD sets of the year, and, surprisingly, more perfect than the movie itself. It’s a wonderful gift right in time for the holidays, and when you get tired of watching Christmas specials dominating the TV, you can get cozy on the couch and fall in love with Kong all over again.